Saturday, February 2, 2008

Friday, 1/31/08 Tsukiji fish market

Friday I got up really early, 4 a.m., to get on the first train to go to the Tsukiji fish market in central Tokyo. It's a famous place. It's where there is a tuna auction and retailers sell all kinds of fish. It's closed on Sundays and some holidays though. It's a pretty crowded and dangerous place. There are so many vendors, buyers, and fish carts driving around.

I saw this on the tracks inside the the subway station outside of Tsukijishijo station.

As soon as you get in the fish market itself you can see all these frozen tuna that were just auctioned off at that morning's tuna auction. Most of the merchants cut the tuna on site and then selling them to restaurants.

The fish still on the cart ready to be wheeled out of the auction area. That blurry thing is a cart going very fast through a larger aisle. 

At the market you can buy anything that is living or dead from the ocean. Well maybe not anything, but things that are edible.

Mostly, though there are fish and squid for sale.

And shellfish. I think these are abalone. 

This is when I started to think that this place was an alien world with really cool stuff. The ground was cobblestoned and slick, and the things for sale were unfamiliar and I couldn't understand the language. It was pretty amazing.

The aisles were incredibly skinny. I think you could fit one and a half people side by side in one aisle.

These little guys were still alive and wiggling. There were several tanks of fish with live fish inside ready to be sold and slaughtered for fresh meat.

I guess the eels are popular because they're mostly sold out.

I came across this as I was trying to navigate the market. I decided to turn around and try another path.

A merchant selling fresh fish to a buyer early in the morning.

Most of the fish are bought whole and cut into smaller pieces for resale right on premises by individual merchants. 

The exceptionally large fish are most often tuna.

That's half of a tuna body right there.

Frozen tuna are initially cut by band saw before being cut smaller.

I've never seen an industrial tool being used to cut meat before. But that's probably because I've never been to a meat market, a butcher, or a slaughterhouse before this trip to the fish market.

They probably go through a ton of ice at the market.

Kent! I don't know what they're selling, probably some food for the merchants, but I didn't stop. I took a picture because Kent is a town near where I live, my grandparents used to live there and my uncle still does.

I was surprised that there weren't many birds in the market. Though I guess I shouldn't have been because the market had a roof over it.

This made me stop and take a second look. It seemed to be uniquely innovative to me to have a display cooler in the place of a flatbed on a pickup truck or van.

Right outside the fish market there were many narrow streets of small restaurants. The restaurants were mostly ramen or sushi. I stopped to eat at Sushi Bun (pronounced "boon"), which was pretty expensive, but it was deliciously wonderful.

I didn't know before coming to Japan that wasabi, the spicy green horseradish paste served with sushi, is actually something you should eat. If you eat large quantities of sushi without wasabi you run the risk of getting parasites, because though the fish is clean and fresh, it is still raw, and might have some bugs in it.

This was a sign for a restaurant next to Sushi Bun. This is a fairly common attitude here, and it is legal and tolerated. It makes me feel uncomfortable and displaced generally, but I suppose it is the citizen's choice on how he or she treats foreigners. Where I live there are two venues that don't like foreigners, or gaijin (the slightly derogatory Japanese term for foreigners), and I've gotten the feeling that I'm unwelcome more than once.

It really bothered me before, but as I get to know Japanese people a little bit better I understand that it's not a prevalent attitude. Most of the time we're either tolerated or actually liked. Though, having the experience of being a minority isn't something a white person usually haves during their lifetime, I have a feeling that this will turn out to be a valuable semester to me throughout my future.

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